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Monday Night Heartache, Take Two: Bills fall to Browns

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Career effort from Lynch wasted in L (Associated Press)

In what can only be described as one of the ugliest and sloppiest football games that I have witnessed in recent memory, the Buffalo Bills lost their second straight Monday Night Football contest, this time succumbing to the Cleveland Browns 29-27.  The Bills, once 5-1 on the season, now find themselves 5-5, losers of their last four games, and dead least in the AFC East - a division they led just a month ago.

Despite some terrific individual efforts from RB Marshawn Lynch (33 touches, 177 yards, TD), CB Leodis McKelvin (stellar DB work, kick return for a score) and others, the Bills could not overcome four turnovers, which included three first-quarter interceptions from the sinking ship that is Trent Edwards.  Despite the downfalls, Cleveland did their best to keep the Bills in the game, which they did - but a Rian Lindell missed field goal in the final minute sealed Buffalo's fate.

First of all - calm down
I know what you're thinking.  "Fire Dick Jauron!" "Trent Edwards sucks!" "Turk Schonert is a moron!" "This team plays with no heart!" "Waaaaaaah!"

Just stop it.  Seriously.  Just.  Stop.  It.

As has been the case in their three previous losses, Buffalo lost this game because it made mistakes.  No, the coaching hasn't been perfect.  Yes, the play has largely been terrible.  Yes, it's irritating to watch this team repeatedly lose games they can win.  I challenge you all to avoid being the bandwagon fan.

I'm not asking you to be a front-runner, or even be obnoxiously positive - obviously, this team doesn't deserve the latter.  But when times are tough, the majority of fans have the admirable, yet silly, notion that pointing out every miniature problem and offering radical solutions to them will provide that "insta-change".  It rarely works.  We're fans of this team for a reason.  So before you sing "woe is me" and let your fingers tap-dance in obscenities, cliches and "Fire Dick Jauron!", understand that things take time.  I don't care how (im)patient you are; they do.  I've said my piece on this and won't say any more; I just think some of the reactions around here are ludicrous.  Flame away.  I can take the heat.

Holy adjustments, Kornheiser
After Edwards threw three picks in the first quarter, offensive coordinator Turk Schonert confounded both fans and the Browns alike by making an adjustment.  That adjustment?  He ran the ball.  Despite the four turnovers, Buffalo still dominated in time of possession while racking up 186 rushing yards on the night - easily their best rushing performance of the season.

Meanwhile, the Bills were able to find a pass rush tonight - against a pretty good Browns offensive line, no less.  No, it's still not consistent, but it was enough to force Brady Quinn into completing just 39 percent of his passes.  It's a step in the right direction for this defense, who once again was left in some tight spots and acquitted themselves nicely in a "kept us in it" performance.

Don't even get me started on Buffalo's special teams - these guys are back, Lindell's gaffe aside.  (For the record, I never left the "I don't trust Rian Lindell" bandwagon).  Still want to call Leodis McKelvin a bust?  If not for Lynch and the ever-annoying Phil Dawson, McKelvin was the best player on the field tonight.

What this team needs
No!  I'm not going to say "head coaching change", "scheme change", "coordinator change", or any of those common notions.  Y'all have that well-covered.  No, what Buffalo needs are some difference-makers.  Guys to lean on.  Buffalo is a star-less team, and it's become painfully apparent over the past month that they need a couple of stars.

Right now, Buffalo is leaning too hard on Edwards, and the kid is crumbling under the pressure.  He's forcing passes; he's antsy; his confidence is shot.  Schonert was smart to take the ball out of his hands as often as he did in the second half; we even saw flashes of the "old" Trent when he hit a beautiful seam route to Robert Royal to set up Lindell's crap-fest kick.  I still maintain that Edwards is going to be a very good player (I swear, if I hear "J.P. Losman" this week, I'm putting my foot up an arse).

Especially defensively, the Bills don't have that guy to get them out of tight spots.  The Dwight Freeney, Troy Polamalu, or Ray Lewis type - guys who get the job done when their teammates expect them to.  The Bills are a team of average, to above average, to very good players.  They don't have any great ones - not yet, anyways.  That's far easier to remedy than starting over from scratch.  Great players make great coaches and great teams.  Right now, Buffalo is stuck at "average"; they started the season at "very good".  Don't expect much to change (no, not even in the coaching staff, believe it or not) until we can find those guys to lean on.

Game Balls
I'm breaking my rule and giving one to Lynch, even though the Bills lost.  He played out of his mind tonight - Cleveland couldn't tackle the guy.  He was awesome.

Roll Call
National TV makes record-breaking game threads here at Rumblings; monumental collapses don't hurt that cause, either.  2,091 comments were made this evening, and while not all of them were what I would consider "koshier" (man, some of you guys swear like sailors - not cool, folks), I'll let it slide for tonight considering the nature of the game.  Just try to keep it under control in the future.  We're not Kissing Suzy Kolber or Deadspin.

Props to norcaliangelsfan for pacing the nerds with 289 comments; Monstarr_716 also popped in with an incredibly respectful 279.  MattRichWarren (271), Kurupt (260) and Joe P (168) also had impressive outings.  Good on all 45 of you who stopped by.

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